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Author Topic: USB Audio Out on MacBook?  (Read 6548 times)

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Offline moonchilddave

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USB Audio Out on MacBook?
« on: January 22, 2012, 08:28:32 PM »
I have an Early 2008 MacBook and just got a set of M-Audio AV 40 Studiophile speakers and am loving the sound on them. However, I am wondering if they'd sound even better if I ran audio out via USB to them. If so, any suggestions? They have L/R RCA line in, L/R 1/4" TRS, or 1/8" aux in.

I think I saw someone said they were using a Behringer UFO202 Audio Interface ($30 from Amazon), but I'm unsure if this would work on the MacBook.  It seems a little cheap to me, and most people are using it to digitize old LP's rather than an audio out device - but I also saw mention that it seemed to be made with pro-grade components and that the RCA out was from a Burr-Brown DAC. 

http://www.amazon.com/Behringer-UFO202-Audio-Interface/dp/B002GHBYZ0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327281931&sr=8-1

I'm just trying to get the best sound possible out of these monitors - but without shelling out a ton of money... The monitors were only $190 to start with, but I do like the sound on them - didn't even bother with the Bass Boost switch as they have a decent punch to them without it...

Offline noahbickart

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Re: USB Audio Out on MacBook?
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2012, 10:02:57 AM »
That unit will work, but Berringer is hardy known for high quality products.

Your mac has an optical digital audio out con the combo headphone jack. Buy the DA converter of your choice and connect that to your powered speakers.
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Offline moonchilddave

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Re: USB Audio Out on MacBook?
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2012, 12:27:21 PM »
Ok, call me a noob... What are the advantages of going via optical out vs. USB?  They are both digital and require a D/A converter.  I did a quick search and found all kinds of devices from this one:

http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-D3-Digital-Converter-Optical/dp/B005K2TXMO/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1327510491&sr=1-2

Which doesn't look a lot more different than the Berringer.  It looks like you can find optical > analog D/A converters from between $18 and several thousands of dollars... But I've learned that price isn't always a good indicator of quality - as I have a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones that easily beat out the competition costing 2-3x the price in my opinion.

So, any recommendations on something that will do the job well without breaking the bank?  How about something that say is less than $200 and of decent quality?

Offline page

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Re: USB Audio Out on MacBook?
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2012, 01:21:21 PM »
Ok, call me a noob... What are the advantages of going via optical out vs. USB?

When doing editing or puting the machine to sleep, I've found that using the optical out works regardless of whether you have the DAC plugged in or not. If you use the USB audio, then any power outage causes a program to no longer see it until you reset that app.

So, any recommendations on something that will do the job well without breaking the bank?  How about something that say is less than $200 and of decent quality?

There are a lot of decent units in the 70-180 range that will fit what you're after. ibasso comes to mind and there are some others. Ironically, head-fi.org has a decent DAC section where they round up and do reviews on various DACs. Thats where I first learned about some of the ones that ibasso makes.
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Offline moonchilddave

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Re: USB Audio Out on MacBook?
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2012, 03:18:01 PM »
There are a lot of decent units in the 70-180 range that will fit what you're after. ibasso comes to mind and there are some others. Ironically, head-fi.org has a decent DAC section where they round up and do reviews on various DACs. Thats where I first learned about some of the ones that ibasso makes.

Ok, it looks like the NuForce Icon uDAC-2 (Black) Headphone Amp and USB DAC (24bit/96kHz) for $129 from Amazon would fit the bill...

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Re: USB Audio Out on MacBook?
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2012, 04:40:26 PM »
Ok, call me a noob... What are the advantages of going via optical out vs. USB?

When doing editing or puting the machine to sleep, I've found that using the optical out works regardless of whether you have the DAC plugged in or not. If you use the USB audio, then any power outage causes a program to no longer see it until you reset that app.

QFT, if the computer goes into sleep mode then no audio from a USB DAC.  At least when using a Focusrite VRM Box which is a USB Headphone Amp.
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Offline moonchilddave

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Re: USB Audio Out on MacBook?
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2012, 05:29:38 PM »
I have my laptop set to never sleep as I also use it for some home automation stuff... I also use InsomniaT to prevent sleep even when the cover is closed), so USB shouldn't be an issue.

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Re: USB Audio Out on MacBook?
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2012, 06:57:05 PM »
I have my laptop set to never sleep as I also use it for some home automation stuff... I also use InsomniaT to prevent sleep even when the cover is closed), so USB shouldn't be an issue.

as long as the usb cable never gets disconnected and nothing causes the system to not see it, then you're correct in that it won't matter.

Pissed me right off the first time it happened to me, had to save all my stuff, shut down RX and reconnect everything proper. I screwed up twice like that and quit using the usb interface afterward. It works for some, but it's not for everyone. Best of luck.

edit: btw, if you're using usb audio in osx, make sure you're at 10.6 or newer. There was a bug in full duplex mode that prevented the system from using it regardless of whether the hardware supported it. SoundDevices and I dickered around with that (and some other bugs) for a while with my usbpre2 and thats when I discovered it.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 06:58:51 PM by page »
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